Mind Map Gallery Neoliberal Progressive Branding Concept Map
Progressive branding here refers to the co-optation of social (ethical) movements by corporations. Under neoliberalism, we see companies aligning with marginalised groups or progressive ideologies (eg. 'rainbowification' of logos, tokenistic BLM social media posts, or a switch to more 'sustainable' brown cardboard packaging) in order to make a profit. As we will explore, this tactic is borne of, and helps to create, a multitude of socio-cultural phenomena. ERA AT3 - Concept map - Neolib Progressive AdvertisingEdited at 2021-09-19 02:45:57
Neoliberal Progressive Branding
Progressive branding here refers to the co-optation of social (ethical) movements by corporations. Under neoliberalism, we see companies aligning with marginalised groups or progressive ideologies (eg. 'rainbowification' of logos, tokenistic BLM social media posts, or a switch to more 'sustainable' brown cardboard packaging) in order to make a profit. As we will explore, this tactic is borne of, and helps to create, a multitude of socio-cultural phenomena.
The neoliberal conception of the self as separate from, or in opposition to, the other, is instrumental in understanding how movements that seek social change are able to be co-opted for profit. By removing the possibility for allocentric thought, competition and individual responsibility are able to become the central values of social being.
Atomised competition is the driving force behind today's market based society. If we want change we find we must compete with one another for resources in order to exercise our choice through consumption. Market aside, we also compete socially. Whether it be for beauty, cultural capital, taste, or in the case of progressive branding - Ethics. Due to our lust for self appreciation, coupled with our competitive programming, we are all in a constant process of becoming more ethical - Providing corporations with an endless supply of demand.
Self-appreciation / Enterprise
The re-imagination of the individual as a self-enclosed, competitive economic actor under neoliberalism has created what many call an enterprise culture. Humans are now vehicles for accumulation and improvement, socially and economically. This speculative desire for self appreciation serves the commodification of ideology as it creates unfettered demand for identity consumption.
Under neoliberalism, not just people, but social movements themselves are disposable. Once they no longer function in the market, that is to say, aren't able to be co-opted for profit, they lose all value and will be disposed of. This means that the people that stand to benefit from social movements that seek equality will be disposed of over and over again. They were being disposed of in the first place, as marginalised populations under systematic oppression down class and identity lines. They were disposed of again when their movements were taken from them and used to generate wealth, and they will be further disposed of when their movements no longer serve a market function. All the while workers still face precarity, the wage gap broadens, and people of colour and the queer community are still plagued with state-sanctioned violence.
Dispossession, put simply, is the redistribution (or theft) of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. It is clear that progressive branding directly contributes to this theft by giving populations more reasons to consume. The privatisation of public services, and reduced welfare, allow for the privatisation of equality, wherein the only way to attain it is through consumption. Therefore the economic elite accumulate excess wealth based on peoples desire for a better world. Aside from economic dispossession, neoliberal progressive branding allows for great social dispossession, where consumers ultimately receive nothing for their concern. Here we are limited in our capacity for meaningful change by the lack of tangible collective platforms, and the idea that we already contribute via consumption. Such individual cones of silence are indicative of a theft of autonomy, contributing to de-democratisation.
Instead of attempting to solve social problems together with its people, the neoliberal state provides only the incentive for competition. We find ourselves governed by the market, rather than representatives of the population. We are provided with the illusion of democratic choice when we are presented with progressive branding, as our voices ultimately fall on deaf ears. When we consume the idea of control over our fate, we are led to put false hope into the wrong places. There is a dis-imagining of democracy.
Neoliberalism's branding of issue consumption as the key to social progress actively limits populations in what they can engage with. Individuals bank on a false sense of societal critique, overlooking certain material situations that cannot be consumed eg. Class oppression. The success of neoliberalism in compartmentalising its subjects into neat little slices of marginalisation means that it is extremely difficult to see how much we are all suffering, together, or how to go about addressing our unified oppression in a meaningful way. Another aspect of disimagination is that in the process of restructuring progressive movements into products, the movements lose meaning and are subject to trend and oversaturation just like any other product.
Status Quo Stories
Status quo stories serve to maintain neoliberal hegemony, and limit possibilities for the imagining of new worlds. One of these stories is that consumption can lead to positive change. This leads to the responsibility for change being placed on atomistic individuals, not individuals as a part of society. We must realise however that these stories are false. We will not consume our way out of environmental crisis, just as Nike's diverse marketing won't solve institutional racism and the criminalisation of black poverty in the US and Australia.
Commodification / Consumption
Commodification is crucial to understanding how peoples ethics are able to be co-opted by the market. By making 'ethical choices' a part of one's individual identity, neoliberalism allows for ideals to become products to be consumed. This is paradoxical in the sense that corporations are driven by growth, which is at odds with equality AND environmental concern. Commodification demonstrates the absolute power that neoliberalism possesses, where originally anti-capitalist movements (eg. environmental movement, feminism etc.) are able to be made consumable in the name of capitalism.
Self-enclosed individualism places importance on identity as a means of deriving meaning and satisfaction from one's life. Our values make up a great deal of how we perceive ourselves as individuals, making social concerns a defining characteristic of who we are. When individual identity is where we derive meaning from, we will, naturally seek it out everywhere. The easiest thing to do is to buy. This leaves us vulnerable to being to be sold our selves, and the ability to attain meaning through consumption.